Arachnoiditis Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Arachnoiditis is a condition that is caused due to the inflammation of the arachnoid mater (arachnoid) in our body. Arachnoid is one of those membranes that surrounds and protect the central nervous system which mainly include the nerves of spinal cord and brain.
Arachnoiditis is further classified as an acute inflammation occurring in the 2 membranes– arachnoid (interior) and dura (exterior). These membranes collectively protect the brain, spinal cord and the roots of the nerves. This health condition is characterized by burning pains, severe stinging and neurological conditions.
The arachnoid inflames due to various adverse chemical reactions and infection caused by various sorts of bacteria and viruses. This inflammation so caused directly affects the spinal cord and further cause very acute compression of spinal nerves.
Sometimes, inflammation in this particular area can lead to the formation of scar tissue and adhesion which forces the spinal nerves to stick together. This condition is very painful and the condition gets much worse if it is progressing towards “adhesive arachnoiditis”.
This disorder is further subdivided in the following categories:
- Adhesive Arachnoiditis
- Cerebral Arachnoiditis
- Neoplastic Arachnoiditis
- Hereditary Arachnoiditis
- Arachnoiditis Ossificans
- Optochiasmatic Arachnoiditis
- Postmyelographic Arachnoiditis
- Rhinosinusogenic Cerebral Arachnoiditis
Arachnoiditis is believed to be caused from a wide variety of sources but these are all etiologies and the root cause for this disorder is yet not known. Scientists and researchers are constantly researching for finding the root cause of this disorder and it is expected that it will be discovered soon. Following are the believed causes of this disorder:
- Viral, Bacterial and Parasitic infection that affect the spine adversely.
- Direct injury to the spinal cord caused by external or internal forces.
- Various chemicals are also believed to cause this disorder. Chemical such as dye used in myelograms has been blamed and found responsible for causing this disorder in a few patients.
- Preservatives in epidural steroid injections are also believed to cause arachnoiditis.
- Chronic compression of the spinal nerves.
- Spinal surgery complications.
- Intrathecal hemorrhage.
- Long term pressure on spinal cord by spinal stenosis.
- Epidural disc collapse.
Signs and Symptoms
Arachnoiditis has no common pattern of signs and symptoms and they vary from case to case. It is not compulsory that the symptoms of arachnoiditis which are being faced by one patient will also be faced by some other patient too. However, the most common and usual symptom of arachnoiditis is extreme pain in the lower back and in the legs. Other symptoms include:
- Numbness and weakness in the legs.
- Spasms, muscle cramps and uncontrollable twitching.
- Unusual sensations on skin like insects crawling or water dripping.
- Gait abnormalities.
- Hearing problems, vision weakness and severe headaches.
- Dizziness and nausea.
- Sexual, bowel and bladder problems.
- Extreme pain which may feel like an electric shock sort of sensation.
- Difficulties in sitting, standing or walking for a long period of time due to pain in the lower back.
It is to be duly noted that these symptoms vary case by case in patients of arachnoiditis. You may suffer from multiple symptoms or may suffer from only a few. The degree of signs and symptoms of arachnoiditis faced will depend upon the severity of your condition and the cause of the condition.
Diagnosing arachnoiditis is a kind of difficult process and is not easy to determine if you are actually suffering from this disorder or not. Usually and most commonly arachnoiditis is diagnosed with the help of CAT (computerized axial tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
These scans basically determine if you have this disorder or not. It is not possible to determine the severity of disorder with the help of these scans. In order to determine the severity of arachnoiditis an EMG (electromyogram) test is exercised.
Apart from that, patient’s medical history, identification of key symptoms and determination of any serious injury in the spine are also considered important factors for determining if you have arachnoiditis or not.
At present there is no certified or sustainable cure discovered for arachnoiditis. In simpler words, arachnoiditis cannot be cured currently. Arachnoiditis is treated just like any other chronic pain condition for the time being. The basic treatment for this disorder is limited to the alleviation of symptoms faced by the patient.
Most treatments for this disorder focus on relieving the patient from acute pain and improving the symptoms that affect the day to day workings of patients. Mild physical therapy is recommended for the patients so that the body remains in motion and active for performing day to day activities.
Usually, health professionals and doctors recommend pain management programmes, physiotherapies, mild exercises and psychotherapies for treating arachnoiditis. Surgery for treating arachnoiditis is available but is highly controversial because the outcomes are often poor and it provides short term relief only. Moreover, there are various side effects caused due to the surgery which may further worsen the patient condition.
Arachnoiditis is a pretty rare disorder that usually affects females more than males. The most probable reason for this is that 2/3 of the pregnant women in the USA, Latin America and most other countries take epidural or spinal anesthesia for the delivery.
This disorder is also most commonly found in those individuals who have had spinal surgeries or a severe damage to the spinal cord due to external forces. Due to rare prevalence the actual number of cases of this disorder is unknown presently. However, a rough estimate shows that about 11,000 new cases of arachnoiditis are identified each year in the USA alone.